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A January Bride

A January Bride

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A January Bride

4/5 (6 ratings)
146 pages
2 hours
Dec 24, 2013


A year’s worth of novellas from twelve inspirational romance authors. Happily ever after guaranteed.

What will happen when novelist Madeleine Houser’s “pen pal” friendship with a lonely widower takes an unexpected turn?

Who can work in a house that's overrun by contractors and carpenters? Not Madeleine Houser, a successful novelist who gladly accepts the help of her octogenarian friend, Ginny, to arrange for a temporary office in the charming bed and breakfast owned by Ginny's friend, Arthur. Maddie’s never met the innkeeper—but a friendship grows between them as Maddie and Arthur leave messages for each other each day. To Maddie’s alternate delight and chagrin, she seems to be falling for the inn’s owner—a man who's likely many years her senior—and who she’s never even met.

Arthur Tyler is a college professor who lost his young wife to cancer. Together they ran the bed and breakfast where Art lives, but without his wife, the house is missing warmth and cheer. He jumps at the chance to have author Madeleine Houser use the space that was once filled with guests. He, too, begins to enjoy the daily exchanges with Maddie, but a series of misunderstandings lead him to believe she’s far from being a prospective date—even if he were ready to date again, which he’s not.

When Maddie and Art finally meet and discover one another’s identity, sparks fly. Even so, they each have obstacles to overcome in order for this winter romance to blossom.

“Having been the mother of the bride twice and the mother of the groom once, it’s fun planning a virtual wedding. Then again, writing A November Bride made me responsible for every aspect of the wedding, including making sure the couple made it all the way to the ‘I do’s!’” —Beth K. Vogt, author of A November Bride

Dec 24, 2013

About the author

Deborah Raney’s books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers' Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas—the setting of many of Deb's novels—for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita. Visit Deb on the web at

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A January Bride - Deborah Raney


I would like to express my deep appreciation to the following people for the roles they played in bringing to life the original version of this novella, first published as Playing by Heart.

Tammy Alexander and Jill Eileen Smith, who went over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and the eagle eyes of gifted writers and editors. Thank you for contributing incredible ideas and insight and for feeding and encouraging my writer’s heart. I think you’ll love this expanded version of Art and Maddie’s story, and especially watching Maddie walk down the aisle!

Debbie Allen, Lorie Battershill, Terry Stucky, and Max and Winifred Teeter for reading the manuscript in its early stages and offering encouragement and advice.

Dan and Jeanne Billings, owners of the former Emma Creek Inn, Hesston, Kansas, for providing the lovely writing retreat that inspired this story more than a decade ago. A special thanks to the inn’s original Alex, who inspired Art and Maddie’s feline friend.

And as always, thank you to my precious family for always being there for me. I love you with all my heart.

Deborah Raney

September 2013

Glancing at the chaos around her, Madeleine Houser set her coffee mug on the dining room table and shoved another packing carton out of her path. It didn’t budge. She bent over and attempted to read the smudged label. Kitchen—good china. Oh. Good thing she’d resisted the temptation to kick the box.

Maddie looked into the kitchen where cupboards gaped open, hinges naked. The cabinet doors were lined up against the wall in the empty breakfast nook. Even after four days, the smell of wet enamel stung her nostrils. The flooring couldn’t be laid until the electrician fixed the mess he’d made of the wiring. And she didn’t dare put her china in the cupboards until all that was finished.

What had her sister gotten her into? Kate’s husband had been transferred to Ohio, but with their mother in the nursing home here in Clayburn, Kate had begged her to leave her beloved New York loft and move into Kate and Jed’s house on Harper Street while it was being refurbished to sell. You can write anywhere, Maddie, Kate had pled in her best big-sister voice. Besides, you can sublet the loft, and just think what you’ll save on the rent.

So here she was in Clayburn, Kansas—the middle of nowhere—proving quite soundly that one could not write just anywhere.

Lugging the carton of china out of the way, she wove her way through the maze of boxes and poured another cup of coffee. She blew a long strand of dishwater-blond hair out of her eyes and slid into a dining room chair. In the midst of the piles of books and boxes and unsorted mail strewn across the table, her laptop computer glared accusingly at her.

Ignoring the disorder, she pulled the computer close, pushed her glasses up on her nose, and tried to remember where she’d left off. Ah, yes. The heartless landlord had just evicted the young widow. Oh, brother, Houser, how cliché can you get? Well, too bad. She didn’t have time to change the whole plot now. She’d managed to write almost two thousand words this morning, but given her track record lately, she’d be lucky if fifty of them were worth keeping.

What had she been thinking to let her editor talk her into a January 1 deadline in the midst of this cross-country move? It was nearly October! You can do it, Madeleine, Janice had crooned in her conniving editor’s voice. If we can get this book on the shelves before next Christmas, the first print run will sell out in a month. Come on. Say you’ll do it. Houser fans are clamoring for your next book.

Over the six years Janice Hudson had been Maddie’s editor, they’d become dear friends. But right now Maddie wanted to strangle her.

She edited the sentence in front of the blinking cursor and forced herself to return to the nineteenth century and the plight of Anne Caraway, her suffering heroine. Poor Anne. She’d lost her beloved William and been evicted from her home, alone with a small child to care for. Now, Maddie was about to throw Anne Caraway onto the mean streets of Chicago. It was the bane of an author’s existence—this need to make her beloved characters suffer. To put them in the furnace and turn up the fire. But without conflict, there was no story, and conflict often equaled sorrow. So, onto the streets Anne Caraway and little Charlie must go. She typed furiously.

The faint echo of dripping water pierced her concentration. She glanced up from her laptop and tilted her head, listening. Was it raining? Who could tell with the heavy drapes covering the room’s high windows? Those would have to go. But first she must finish this book. Brushing off the temptation to get up and check outside, she turned back to the keyboard. She typed twenty words before the drip, drip, drip became demanding.

She pushed her chair back and navigated the labyrinth of cardboard boxes. The sound seemed to be coming from the kitchen, but nothing was leaking there as far as she could tell. Dodging sawhorses the contractors had left, she crossed to the basement door. As a rule, basements gave her the creeps, but in this tornado alley on the Kansas prairie, it was a rare house that didn’t have one. She’d been relieved to find Kate and Jed’s charming Tudor had only a closet-sized cellar. Just enough space to provide refuge from a cyclone, but not enough to have dank corners where . . . well, where whatever it was she was afraid of could hide.

She opened the door—and gasped. The wooden treads at the bottom of the flight glistened with moisture, and from the far end of the cellar, she could hear the unmistakable sound of water trickling into more water. A naked lightbulb hung over the stairs. Rats! The string attached to the pull chain was caught on one of the splintered rafters overhead. Maddie straddled the steps, one foot on the top landing, the other on the thin ledge that ran the length of the stairwell. Grabbing the door handle for support, she scooted along the ledge, grasping blindly for the string.

Next thing she knew, she was teetering on the ledge. She reached for something to steady herself. Unfortunately, what she found was the door, which slammed shut behind her.

The stairwell went dark. Miraculously she found the string with the next random swing of her arm. Not so miraculously when she pulled on the chain, the light flickered, then sparked. She heard the ominous sound of every electric device in the house powering down.

Had she remembered to save her manuscript? The old laptop barely held a charge anymore; it would be dead before the auto-save kicked in. She felt herself slipping and gasped when she hit the stairs. Hard. A sharp pain sliced through her left ankle, and she bumped down half the flight of stairs.

When the stairwell quit spinning, she crawled back up to the kitchen and pulled herself to her feet, testing. Ouch! Her ankle had already swollen to the size of a small grapefruit. Damp and aching, she hobbled to the cordless phone on the kitchen wall. Dead. And her cell phone was upstairs in the guest room charging. Thankfully the landline in the dining room had a dial tone. She rummaged through the desk drawer until she found the thin phone book and flipped to the number of her neighbor, Ginny Ross. Ginny answered on the second ring.

Ginny? Hi, it’s Madeleine Houser next door. Is your electricity out?

No. Well, at least I don’t believe so. Just a minute . . .

Maddie heard an oven door creak open and then what sounded like the ding of a microwave. No. Everything’s still on over here.

Rats! I think I’ve blown another fuse. And there’s water in the—ouch!

Madeleine? What’s happened? Are you all right?

Maddie cringed as she eased into the desk chair. I’m fine. I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle.

You scared me. I thought you’d electrocuted yourself.

Maddie gave a humorless laugh. Nothing so dramatic, I’m afraid. Sorry to bother you. I just didn’t want to call the electrician again if it was only—

I’ll be right over.

The phone went dead, and Maddie sat staring at the receiver for a few seconds, until she realized Ginny meant her words literally. Maddie had met her neighbor only two weeks ago, but already she’d grown to love the woman. At eighty-four and widowed for a quarter of a century, Ginny epitomized the word spry. She was as independent as any of Maddie’s thirty-something New York friends. With her own mother’s mind ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease, it was good to have a wise older woman to talk to.

Yoo-hoo! Ginny’s cheery voice floated in from the mudroom.

Come on in, Ginny. But watch your step.

Ginny bustled into the kitchen, weaving her way through sawhorses and stepladders. Now what did you do to yourself? She bent to inspect Maddie’s swollen ankle. Oh, my! Are you sure it’s not broken?

I don’t think so. She rubbed the tender area around the swelling.

Ginny scooted another chair close and helped Maddie elevate her foot. Then she went to the freezer and rummaged inside until she unearthed a package of frozen peas. Here we go. She wrapped the icy bag in a dishcloth and draped it over Maddie’s ankle. She glanced around the kitchen, taking in the renovation chaos. How are you ever going to finish that book in this mess?

Maddie couldn’t help it. Tears that had been pent up for weeks overflowed. Oh, Ginny, I’m already so far behind I can’t imagine how I’ll make my deadline. And without electricity, I’m sunk.

Well, of course you are. Ginny made sympathetic clucking noises with her tongue and surveyed the kitchen again. "This will never do. I’d offer to let you write at my house, but I’m afraid

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What people think about A January Bride

6 ratings / 10 Reviews
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Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Originally published on Tales to Tide You OverA January Bride is a delightful novella that manages to turn misunderstanding into a comedy of missteps while also balancing the growing moments for both Maddie who has been burned by love and Art who is still grieving his first wife. That Maddie is an author was well done, showing some of the difficulties and some of the fun without making her a caricature. Adding a mother in the throes of Alzheimer’s was poignant but not overwhelming, and Alex the cat was a true character. It might sound like a lot of people (and I haven’t mentioned them all) for a novella, but the setup is very constrained so there are few incidental characters to clutter. I am surprised at how much was fit into the novella length, and how well, though. I enjoyed everyone I met, even the cat as mentioned above.While this is part of a series, it’s clear the rules for inclusion do not include a strict accounting of the type of story. While the first was about restoration and connection with the past, this one is cheerful about fast food. Unlike the first in the series, A January Bride is also clearly Christian fiction with the traditional focus on God’s will. That said, the characters recognize God’s hand in things but didn’t sit back and expect God to do everything for them either.The way they meet…or don’t meet…offers an enjoyable string of comedic moments, and I loved trying to figure out how what became almost a farce could continue. However, it’s not all jollies, not when you consider Maddie’s very real battle with losing her mother, and her deadline woes. It seems the fates have turned against her, only she never gives in or gives up, leading her to a much better future.This is a fun read with some serious moments about vulnerability and healing, and worth the read.P.S. I received this novella from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    Wonderful quick read that reminds us that love can be found when we least expect it! I'm loving this Bride series and recommend them to everyone!
  • (5/5)
    I loved the storyline for this "Year of Weddings Novella". Maddie finds herself in Clayburn, Kansas, in the middle of nowhere, trying to adjust from suddenly moving from her New York apartment. Her sister had to move before their house was ready to sell, their mother needed looking after (she has alzheimer), and since Maddie is an author, her sister figured she could do that anywhere, why not in Kansas. So while the house is being totally redone, Maddie's neighbor suggests she find a quiet place to write during the day and gets permission for her to use a friends Bread and Breakfast place during the day. This place is not really being used as the wife passed away and the husband just couldn't make it run, so he now teaches at a college an hour away. The fun part of this is; Maddie thinks the man is old and about to retire (although she has never met him), AND Arthur Tyler (the B and B owner) thinks he is letting an old lady use his place during the day while she writes. Both are wrong! I love the way this all came to be and the way they write notes to each other as they are going and coming. It was a sweet way to get to know each other, even if they both don't know who they are really writing to. I won't spoil it by telling how they come to realize their mistake, but must say this was a very "feel good romance" story. Doesn't take long to read, but felt like a complete story, one I wished had lasted longer.
  • (5/5)
    For someone ( me) who shunned novellas or short stories for years because they did not have the depth to the characters and plots that I looked for in my books, it is a surprise at the quality of theses that I am finding! I really am enjoying the A YEAR OF WEDDINGS being offered by NetGalley and Zondervan. Although the first one was a Christmas one, and each of the following are appropriately named after the months in which they take place, the only thing connecting them into a series appears to be that they are short engagements and are all novellas. Ir was very enjoyable to read about Madeline, her pen-pal and the humorous misconceptions that drive this story. A quick read, while thoroughly engaging, I would recommend this to all romantics.I received this ebook free from Netgalley and Thomas Nelson/Zondervan books in exchange for an honest review. A positive critique was not required. The opinions are my own.
  • (5/5)
    January BrideDeborah RaneyBook Summary: Part of A Year of Wedding Novella series
In A January Bride by Deborah Raney, what will happen when novelist Madeleine Houser’s “pen pal” friendship with a lonely widower takes an unexpected turn? Who can work in a house that's overrun by contractors and carpenters? Not Madeleine Houser, a successful novelist who gladly accepts the help of her octogenarian friend, Ginny, to arrange for a temporary office in the charming bed and breakfast owned by Ginny's friend, Arthur. Maddie's never met the innkeeper - but a friendship grows between them as Maddie and Arthur leave messages for each other each day. To Maddie's alternate delight and chagrin, she seems to be falling for the inn's owner - a man who's likely many years her senior - and who she's never even met.Review: This is a unique book in that it is debuted as ebooks and will later be published as a book. I like this series. The stories are short and sweet. The main characters are Maddie and Art. The majority of the story is spent with Maddie. You get glimpses of Art - so that makes the story even more intriguing. I liked Ginny a secondary character but the facilitator of events. She knows things about both Maddie and Art that the other does not. It is sweet and for anyone who has spent time apart prior to marriage from their fiancé knows that sweet can be a great start. I hope the rest are as enjoyable as this one. I would like to thank Net Galley and Zondervan Fiction for allowing me to read and review this book in return for a free copy and I was never asked to write a favorable review by anyone.
  • (4/5)
    Deborah Raney created a wonderful story for the Year Of Weddings collection! I loved this one to pieces. Ms. Rainey created a heartwarming novella that is filled with tenderness and faith. From start to finish, I was hooked!Maddie and Arthur are truly amazing characters! With an exchange of "notes" between them, they have a fun time getting to know each other. When they finally meet, the sparks click and fly! Watching them fall in love was an exciting time for me! And sweet Ginny! She is a character I won't soon forget!I highly recommend this 4 star novella to all who want a quick, romantic story of finding love, letting go of the past, and trusting in Him to fulfill your hopes and dreams. Ms. Raney's work is unique and I'm definitely glad to add this to my re-read collection! Well done, Ms. Raney!
  • (4/5)
    I received a free ARC of A January Bride via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.This is the second novella in the A Year of Weddings series and I have to say that I really enjoyed this classy and sweet romance.I found the main character, Maddie, to be very likeable and relateable (perhaps because she is an author). Art, the main male lead, was also well-written a character that you could easily understand. Watching the two of them and their relationship grow was fun and, at times, heart-tugging.The secondary character of Ginny was enjoyable as well as she did her part to help the two lonely and scared couple find their footing.This story does contain Christian and religious moments so, if you're not a fan of this style of writing, you might want to steer clear.I would recommend this novel to others and I will continue to read the other novels in this series.
  • (3/5)
    A novella based around writing a book.This series of wedding novellas is interesting in that each book has a different author. I read January first as I assumed this would be book 1, however, for some reason this is the second book in the series, although this makes little difference as they are not connected.This was a sweet, quick read, possibly a little too sweet for my taste but well written with believable characters. It also had a slight Christian element, which would not normally be my choice, but it wasn't overpowering.Maddie is staying in her sister's house while she and her husband are working out of town. Their mother lives near-by and is suffering with severe Alzheimer's disease, so someone needs to keep an eye on her. Unfortunately the house is having some extensive renovations done and it is impossible for Maddie to reach the deadline on her historical fiction book while surrounded by dust and workers. Thanks to Ginny, an elderly neighbour, an alternative work-space is found, and so begin the notes with which Maddie and her host, Arthur Tyler, communicate.It is rather predictable in many ways but the writing is humorous and the characters well drawn, even for the short, 99 pages. A light break from more serious reads.
  • (4/5)
    Take time to write handwritten notes from your heart. They will be treasured and loved. - Lorrin L. Lee

    Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

    A cutie for Valentine’s! – Me

    A simple note. Handwritten, left on a table for you to find. Simple words, written in jest or kindness or thanks. From such beginnings what friendships may begin?

    Madeline Houser, “Maddie” to her friends, is a writer, trying to finish a book. A book that is due in a few months, and which she is apparently not going to finish as she is trying to finish prepping her sister’s house for sale – prepping which includes much hammering and sawing and yelling and mayhem. Not exactly conducive to the writer’s soul in anyone!

    Having moved from New York City to tiny Clayburn, Kansas to prep said house after Maddie’s sister Kate’s husband is suddenly transferred, Maddie is out of her element. However, she can now visit her mother in her nursing home every day, so there are some positives to being so far from her home and her normal life. And as her mother slips further into dementia, she can’t help but appreciate the chance to be with her beloved mom, even if she doesn’t recognize Maddie any more.

    Overwhelmed with noise and mess on every hand, Maddie is more than thrilled when her octogenarian neighbor, the lovely Ginny, arranges for Maddie to spend her days writing at the gorgeous former bed and breakfast owned by her friend Authur Tyler. As Authur, an English professor at the college and recent widower is never home during the day, Maddie is thrilled to accept the offer, setting up her laptop every day at the beautiful old wooden dining table, enjoying the peace and quiet, the beautiful surroundings, and Alex, the foot-warming cat.

    A thank you note to Mr. Tyler for allowing Maddie to use his home to write leads to a note in response, then another, and another. Soon, Maddie and Mr. Tyler have what few people have these days, a ‘handwritten’ friendship consisting of short comments on the house, the cats, and writing in general. And as Maddie and Ginny’s friendship grows, Maddie is charmed by the apparent crush Ginny has on the invisible Mr. Tyler and sets out to do something about nudging them together. What happens after that is irrepressibly funny, charming, and touching. If you love lighthearted romances, this is definitely one to check out. It was a bit “preachy Christian” for me, but not over the top, and if you are one to really like the “Christian Romance” field, I definitely recommend this one. It is sweet.

    I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
  • (4/5)
    A January Bride by Deborah Raney is the second novella in the Year of the Weddings novella collection. This is a sweet Christian romance that is full of misunderstandings and assumptions that create the basic storyline.Madeleine Houser is an author that is on a tight deadline. While writing her novel, she decides to move to Clayburn, Kansas, to be closer to her mom that is in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s. She moves into her sister’s house that she is having refurbished to sell after her husband gets transferred to Ohio. Thinking she can write anywhere, Maddie takes her sister up on her offer; however, she soon finds out it is impossible to write when there is so much commotion and chaos going on around her. Her elderly neighbor, Ginny, suggests she write at her friend’s inn, whose wife had died several years ago and doesn’t have many people at the inn anymore. Maddie finds that she loves the inn and her writing flourishes there, as well as the daily notes that she writes back and forth with the inn’s owner, Arthur, who she has never met. They both enjoy writing these little notes to each other, thinking that the other person is “safe” because they are older, so they won’t get hurt. Little do they realize that they are both young adults in their thirties, even though they think the other is the same elderly age as Ginny. What will happen when they finally do come face-to-face after so many weeks of letter writing?I love this novella collection so far, even though I wish each one was longer, because they do seem very rushed and they could use more detail. With that being said though I can’t wait to read A February Bride. I would rate this novella a 4 out of 5 stars, and would recommend this to anyone that likes a short quick romance.